My client wanted a flyer done. I did it and they didn't like it. I redid it and they said they liked it but wanted significant changes. So I did those and heard nothing.

When I asked later if they'd had time to look at the new designs, they said they'd ended up doing the work themselves instead. :\

Their emails to me were slow and vague the whole way so I think communication was the reason things failed but that's a two-way street and I know I am also responsible for not taking more control. He wants an invoice. Should I charge the full amount, a discounted amount or not charge at all?

3 Answers 3


You should consider yourself lucky that he's not trying to circumvent payment completely.

What you're describing is generally a good client, even if they are challenging at times. A client who values your time, realizes that even if they choose not to use your work, they should still pay for your time, is a good client to have.

If final, production-ready, files have already been delivered to the client, then I'd invoice for the full amount in all cases. They have what is needed to reproduce the work, they have full value for what you were hired. So, you are due full compensation for the work you completed. You'd be well within standard practice to invoice the work as you originally agreed upon. Whether or not the client actually uses your work is up to them, but they still have to pay for it.

If final, production ready files have not been delivered, in the situation you've described, I'd discount the original pricing by 20-50%. I'd do this merely because they recognize they should pay you. You want that client to return to you when they need you. Offering a discount will go a long way to solidifying a good relationship with that client.

I would not forego all compensation. Offering to do the work for free tends to send a bad message to the client -- subconsciously that you don't value your own time.

  • Yeah, I was thinking of doing this and I will. I send a PDF for the one he hated but all the changes after were sent as PNGs. I'm going to discount because I do feel bad that I wasn't able to guide this project better.
    – Pepefan
    Aug 29, 2015 at 1:28
  • @Pepefan , I agree with everything Scott said and one more thing, I think it's important to let the client know of the discount you are giving. If you miss this you might end up with the client saying "and don't we get a discount of some sort for not using you actual design?", and it's kinda hard to explain that you already did afterwards.
    – Alin
    Aug 29, 2015 at 10:10

You should always charge for the value of your time, skills, talent, and work produced. Even if the experience didn't turn out optimally.

Discount only if the discount would be beneficial to all parties involved (including yourself). Otherwise you're potentially setting a dangerous precedent and indicating to the client that your work is overvalued.

  • I do feel it would benefit us if I discounted and explained exactly why. I've done a couple things for him before this that he loved and we've actually known each other online for 10 years so I really want to continue that positive relationship.
    – Pepefan
    Aug 29, 2015 at 1:34

When you prepare a quote for a project, you should keep for yourself a list of the value of your first drafts, brainstorming, communication, revisions and final files. If this happens again, you'll know what you should charge.

It's hard to judge that situation, it depends on the contract.

But in general you should have something in it about cancelling projects. You can charge a minimum percentage even though the project is not completed; you can even charge an extra fee actually.

If you don't have anything in your contract about it, evaluate how many hours you spent, including the communication, and then charge it at hourly rate. That should work fine for now.

Note that if the client used YOUR files and modified them, that's legally not right unless you specified otherwise; usually that's your intellectual property until the work has been fully paid. If you have no mention of this anywhere on our contract or proofs, then add it for next time. And also, don't ever send vectors, high resolution or files easy to modify as proofs...

Your question also seem to indicate you didn't ask for a down payment! Be careful about this and make sure you split your quote into many payments along the way. It could happen one day a client will cancel and not even want to pay you, although it's rare.

I don't want to sound patronizing (but probably will), but yes it's unfortunately partly your fault if communication wasn't clear; you need to ask questions and take control when things are vague. Don't take all the blame though and feel ultra guilty, if you've worked with the client for 10 years, this is quite a weird situation and the client should know better too. That's why I think charging at hourly rate or a percentage of the work done is fair for both of you.

Ask precise questions if you want precise answers, give examples, or A or B choices to your client, etc. That's just a trick.

Some clients are like this, they do need more guidance and expect it from you! They don't always know how to give you the info, sometimes it's hard for them to put their idea in writing or they're not very "visual." Or they write more about their personal life goals or what they ate for lunch than actual instructions because they think that's what you need to "seize" them. When they tell you they're "friendly and bubbly personally who enjoy good chakras people, recycling and the essence of life...", you can simply ask them "So, do you like that blue with that beige or do you prefer this other color palette?" Cut the blabla and ask what you need!

Don't start the projects unless you're a good mind reader or know how to present various samples that will already help your client target what they want!

And when they're slow to respond to your email, write back and ask for updates in a friendly and professional way (e.g. not pushy.) There's many good tricks for this without looking desperate. Sending an invoice is one of them by the way, when they're not very cooperative and it would fix your issue as well! They usually get back to you quickly!

  • You didn't sound patronising - I'm actually very new to this. I met this client 10 years ago on a forum and we lost touch a few years later. I launched my design business 1 month ago and ran into him on LinkedIn. So I've only worked with him for 1 month! I didn't ask for a down payment and will from now on. The thing is he usually approaches me last minute so things are always rushed and I've felt weird about slowing them down by getting stuff like down payments first. I feel like I'm bothering him when I ask questions so I didn't this time. But I really have to start doing these things now.
    – Pepefan
    Aug 31, 2015 at 0:47
  • Like, I learned a lot from this. And you (and the others here) have given some really good advice that I'm going to implement for future clients (and this one, if he asks me to work for him again).
    – Pepefan
    Aug 31, 2015 at 0:51
  • @Pepefan It's alright, really not easy with rush projects and I see how you got stuck in this. At least the client wants to pay and as you said, you'll know what to expect with him/her next time. You might even get your down payments faster if the projects are rush and that makes things easier; you can tell your client the project will be started as soon the first payment will be made. Then you wait 5-15 minutes, it's usually very quick. Your client doesn't have issues paying, he/she is simply a "last minute" kind of client but it has some benefits :)
    – go-junta
    Aug 31, 2015 at 3:14

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